If I was not a teacher, I think my dream job would be to design teacher classrooms. I swear, I could spend hours and hours at a time perusing Pinterest for different decor ideas, and I just love creating desginated spots in my own classroom for different activities.
When you have designated areas in your classroom for specific activities, everything just flows a little bit smoother.
Both you and the students know where materials are, transitions become faster, and students can pick and choose locations which work best for them as learners. Here are some of my top tips for setting up your classroom with clear work areas.
Is there anything better than a good label? I love to scroll the ‘gram to look at well-organized, labelled pantries, anyone else?
You can make your classroom look just as good! I label everyhting, from student’s hangers, to the magazine holders that store our duotangs, to bins with pencil crayons in them, and so on.
I swear, I’d label the kids if I could!
Throw in colour coding, too, if you want to make things really helpful.
For example, everything to do with Social Studies in our classroom is green – the kids’ duotangs, the bin those are stored in, its label on our visual schedule, and so on.
You should also make sure you label everything that kids take out of your classroom with your name. This way, if they take a skipping rope out for recess and forget to bring it back in, another student who finds it will know to bring it back to your room.
I like to stick an easily removable label onto students’ assigned chromebooks, too, which has their login information for different websites. Then, they don’t waste my time asking me to look it up for them. Of course, this only works if there is enough technology for kids to have their own.
Label things with times and/or things to do as well. For example, you can have a bin where kids drop their homework at the beginning of the day clearly labelled “AM Homework Hand-In” or something of the like. This helps to reinforce routines you have as well.
Last point in this tip, make sure you use both words and images if some of your students ae English lagnuage learners or can’t yet read. For example, we have a bin for sharp pencils and another for dull, each one also has a picture.
Keep everything together
Just like if you’re Marie Kondo-ing your home, you need to keep like things together.
For example, I keep all of our games together, regardless if they’re ELA, math, or just fun/free-time games. Now, within that area I put them in different (labelled) bins that state what they are, so I can remind kids on the math games center that they need to take a game from the math games bin and I should’t be seeing them playing Jenga.
Now, you may set these things up differently, according to your own needs, but pick something that works for you.
For me, I want the day itself to run as smoothly as possible, so I organize all of the things I’ll need for the day right in the location I’ll need them. So, I have all my guided reading binders, books, props, and so on right at our guided reading table.
Any worksheets we’re going over as a class stay right by the document camera so I can quickly grab them.
All of our duotangs are stored together so the students always know where to grab them and put them back.
And on, and on, and on…
make things easily accessible
Your classroom should be easy for both you and the students to use. If things aren’t easily accessible to students, they’ll always be asking you to help them grab basic things like scissors.
Of course, there are always super high shelves or weird locked cabinets we have for storage, but none of these should be used to hold things either you or the students need to use frequently. the only things I keep in inconvenient storage locations are things I need only once or twice in the school year, or silly things I don’t actually need but am required to keep (like the box my work computer came in… so annoying).
I like to have a section in the room that holds all of our class resources. This is accessible to all students, so they can get the things they need when necessary. It is clearly labelled and literally has anything they could possibly need, from blank paper, to fidget tools, to disco sits, and scissors.
When you have sections like this set up in your classroom, the kids take more of an initiative around what they need for their own success. You also have more time to help kids with the actual content you’re teaching, not just getting the resources kids need for them.
When you’re setting up your classroom and creating different work areas, don’t do so willy-nilly!
Class sizes are getting bigger, it’s hard to fit 30 little people in a room along with desks, tables, and all the actual work you guys are doing! So, don’t add any clutter to your class if it’s not useful.
I even use my walls and bulletin boards to create purposeful space for the kids and myself.
For example, you can use command hooks to hang your “word wall” – so if kids need to spell “because”, they can go grab the B words (on a binder ring hanging from a command hook) and look it up.
I hand file folders from bulletin boards and walls which hold math and language arts sheets for early finishers. I also use these to hold blank or lined paper; kids know exactly where to go and it doesn’t take up shelf space.
vary seating options
As easy as it would be to teach if kids were all little robots, programmed the exact same way, that’s not the case. And man, would that be boring, or what?!
Our students all like to work in different ways and in different spaces. In an ideal world, we’d have giant classrooms where we could easily fit in tons of various seating options.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case and we have to be a little bit more creative.
Do what you can to provide a few different seating options in the space you have.
I like to have a “cozy corner” set up near our classroom library. It’s a great spot for kids to read or to work. In the same corner, I also provide a box of clipboards and lap desks so that students are able to work outside of their desks.
Of course, tables for students to work collaboratively are alwasy super helpful, but they can take up space. If necessary, students can always move desks together, it’s jsut not ideal.
If you’re able to, I love to also have bean bag chairs or a couch, and moving seats like hokki stools and exercise balls.
The good thing about options like hokki stools and exercise balls are that they offer excellent seating options without taking up excessive space. If you have desks without attached chairs, wiggly students can just replace a chair with a hokki stool or exercise ball. They can also easily mve them around the room.
have clear rules
If you have areas all over the room but no clear rules about when and how to use them, your classroom could quickly descent into madness.
I love to give kids the freedom to work in areas which best suit their needs, but they also need to be responsible. building work skills is an important skill, and if a student can only produce work when they’re working independently at their desk, then they’re not yet ready to work in alternative locations.
I always give all students the option to work where they feel they will work beest, but with the caveat that there are no warnings; if they are not on-task, I will immediately move them back. I generally give them anotehr chance right away (as in, the next time the class has the opportunity for working where they like), but again will move them immediately if necessary.
I like to ensure I give them lots of chances so that they can build those skills and prove themselves responsible and hard-working. Once they know how serious I am about enforcing the rules, they are generally all great at staying on-task and working incredibly hard.
use pictures and visuals
I am always touting the importance of making classrooms student-friendly. They should be able to grab and use things as necessary.
This means they also need to put things away properly as well.
I use plenty of pictures and visuals to lable where things should be and how they should look. For example, I have pictures of pencils on the outside of our pencil bin. I also take photos of how our shelves should look when everything is put away properly so that the students can refer to the photo when putting thigns away.
I find this most helpful when we are doing centres or educational games. When the kids are done, they bring back the games or tools they were using and look at the picture to see exactly where on the shelf they go.
The kids are also very good at helping one another put things away. They’ll remind one another to look at the picture and give tips like “oh, that goes on the second shelf, not the third”. It’s actually quite adorable!
Finally, give your students jobs to help keep things in order in your classroom.
I used to have a general “classroom tidy” job for kids to help make sure things were put away properly, there was no loose garbage on the floor, and so on.
Now, I find it’s actually more helpful to have a few more very specific jobs. For example, one job is our technology pro, who akes sure everything is properly plugged in and put away correctly. We also ahve a games master, who ensures board games have been packed up properly and put in the correct space.
Depending on your classroom and the specific needs and teaching areas you have, these jobs will all look different. Pick ones that make the most sense for your class and which kids will be excited to help out with!
What do you think? Are these helpful tips? Is there anything else you do in your classroom to make clear working areas? Let me know!
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